Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bridging Across Boundaries, Technologies, and Cultures

"What role will social networks, and its underlying technologies play in the time beyond 2020, and today?" - this question should stick over the course of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Technology Time Machine on 23rd to 25th, May 2012 in Dresden. "During the panels, they will engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue, discussing the consequences of these new technologies on human society and how those technologies can contribute t,o solving great global challenges." [quoted from IEEE / TU Dresden Media Information 3/12]

Day 3 of #IEEETTM 2012 Dresden
Reflecting on the event with a picture of the last session by IEEE President Gordon Day envisions already #IEEETTM 2013 in Seattle, very much gives a sense from where IEEE Technology Time Machine has come from, it started in Hong Kong in 2011, and has accelerated in Dresden.

At its 1st birthday, it seems that Dresden could not compare with buzzing multicultural Hong Kong as the place of action. Don't get yourself wrong at this first impression. This culturally rich city of well over 500.000 inhabitants on the meadows of the River Elbe is largely based on the artifacts like Semperoper, Zwinger, Residenzschloss, or Deutsches Hygienemuseum. Yet the technology and science legacy of the city can't be underrated. An impressive overview of the various technology fields, Dresden is exceptionally strong in, can be found at '"Dresden is more technological"' (English/ Deutsch).

Sparked by Prof. Dr. Gerhard Fettweis, Vodafone Chair Mobile Communications Systems, Technical University Dresden, emerged the vision of making the "hidden champion" of emerging technologies within Europe the place of the 2nd IEEE Technology Time Machine. The event itself focused on what's achievable with technology beyond 2020, and it fits this year perfectly into the official motto of the City of Dresden "Dresden - City of Art and Science", and the  first private cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX one day prior to the symposium' start on Wednesday.

Well over 200 attendees, and speakers from the corporate world, C-level executives, and emerging leaders such as YFEL members of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology met right downtown Dresden amongst the cobblestone roads of the past, viewing into the future.

All seemed very well organized, free WiFi-access for attendees in the conference rooms, Dresden - Magazine of the Capital of Saxony - Brilliant Moments in Arts and Science [the magazine is not available in the digital form presently] on the registration desk, and a pretty decent on-time agenda welcomed the future aware crowd on Wednesday morning. Due to the fact that the Hilton Hotel still asks for 17 € p.d. using their contracted provider's WiFi connection the technicians had set up a local WLAN network with LTE technology at the conference level, which after some initial difficulties ran flawlessly over the course of the conference.

Prof. Dr. Hans Müller-Steinhagen, Rector of the Technical University of Dresden, kickstarted the symposium with his presentation focusing on the alliances of academics, and industry to tackle the global challenges of the future. "Global challenges need global co-operations!", was his clear message to the audience. Focusing on multi-alliances through new concepts on how we communicate, resembling the internet itself, as the example he mentioned, the 'Pirate Party' drew out.

He namely mentioned 4 examples present in the region of Dresden (1) DRESDENconcept, (2) Dii, (3) Cool Silicon, and (4) "Region of Knowledge" (program by the European Commission to draw clusters tighter together). Ambitious projects to drive broader implementation of exponentially accelerating information technology which will greatly benefit from the potentially available entrepreneurial power of the region, which has held the "unique spirit" for centuries, even through the GDR-times, and the current financial, and economic turmoil that has hit so many regions of the world. Shall it be possible to set the four projects on "entrepreneurial fire?"

A question that resided in the mind till the next session by Jakob van Zyl, Associate Director of Project Formulation and Strategy at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA. He beautifully put it to the point during his presentation at the session 'Collective Intelligence', "Funding agencies do a bad job of what they are doing to the public. Those kinds of things we have to do a better job!". Hearing these words from a NASA engineer, and the director himself is not just astonishing, it opens the mind to what is possible to achieve putting the strengths of the different stakeholders in an elegant way together. A prominent figure and lately in the news is Peter H. Diamandis, founder of X Prize Foundation, co-founder of Singularity University (a university, founded in 2008, focusing on exponentially accelerating information technologies to solve humanity's grand challenges which are actually based at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California)). He has shown over the years that the co-operation with NASA, and other space agencies since 1986 has an immense impact. Back then he founded together with Bob Richards and Todd Hawley the ISU (International Space University) which is now headquartered in Strasbourg, France (as the result of a global competition). In other words, the combination of academics, industry, and passionate individuals, as the three graduate students back then represented, are the fuel to exceptional outcomes.

From Thursday morning on the activity on Twitter accelerated up to unimagined heights, almost feeling like being at one of those tech-orientated bar camps, unconferences like Re:publica or Mobile Camp Dresden, where different media forms make the ongoing discussions available to all conference attendees.

The comparison of #IEEETTM to events like Re:publica, should, even more, play a role during the upcoming press conference around mid-day.
Following the so-called hashtag #IEEETTM on Twitter, one could find most interesting comments, links, or quotes from within the sessions, also by some of the speakers themselves such as Joe Weinmann (more storified coverage of the symposium on Slideshare).

The press conference, organized by PR Piloten (now under the name WeichertMehner), one of the local communication partners of IEEE Technology Time Machine 2012, was well served also by local newspaper representatives. After the short overview of the intent of the event, Roberto de Marca, Executive Chair,  laid out the current achievements due to it (the first four on the list beside). Maurizio Dècina, General Chair, stated the general goal of the new event series, "listen to all the voices - to learn about what is going on". After that, the room was open for questions from the press body. One of the questions that came up by a representative by Technology Review was, 'What is the reason there had not been presented hot new technologies during the sessions, and secondly why the event is not a buzzing as the Re:publica in Berlin which attracts thousands of geeks, speakers, general public?'

What became quite clear was that engineers, as much as scientists, and researchers are in general, not the social network geeks, rather focused on getting the work done, finding technical solutions for pressing challenges. As shown here in Dresden, everybody was invited to join the conversation on Twitter, and learn from this experience, and after-conference reflections by all stakeholders. Without trying out new ways in a culture that is by far, and traditionally not as outgoing as marketing, and design folks are they won't come newly into the world - and the IEEE Technology Time Machine team certainly dared to take this next step into the future together with all stakeholders, attendees, and parties involved.

As Jakob van Zyl coined it to the point in his session, hours prior to the press conference, "We need the people in the middle that straddle the science and the business."

Artists by any means, whether painters, writers, or in the performing arts fields like Semperoper Ballett, and The Forsythe Company, that are both based in Dresden building on the rich technology, cultural, and arts legacy, are predominately prepared to play the "straddle" or "boundary spanning" role between science, and business. The Motion Bank project by William Forsythe capturing the choreographic and dancing legacies by technological means may open future opportunities to bring new emerging technologies into a new context, and build applications, services, etc. around it. Another connection string between art, and technology was laid out by István Simon, and Boglárka Hatala who work in a joint project initiated by Semperoper Ballett, and Technical University Dresden, especially on the question of how artistic creativity can be brought to scientific research fields to ignite hidden puddles of individual, and group creativity [the interview has been filmed by IEEEtv; parts of it will be available at a later time].

To wrap up on this most amazing conference in the center of Dresden, on the edge of Germany here four short questions, and answers:
  1. What was good? Another terrific technology event based in Dresden, social network connection across boundaries, available WiFi, technology visionaries passionately talking about their work
  2. What was tricky? Unstable WiFi due to unexpected usage, three days not enough, pre-conference social media activity low
  3. What have I learned? Engineering communities are tapping into the power of social networks, a "damn question" can lead to profound change in behavior ("What is the official hashtag for the conference? Can you apply official info on it in some way?" on Wednesday, skyrocketing use of Twitter from Thursday morning on), boundary spanning/ straddle science, and business is not yet a common thing
  4. Next action? Putting together a slideshow with tweets that were relevant during the three days from attendees, speakers, organizers, and others [to be found on Slideshare in a few days time], connecting with Amplifyfestival 2013
Updates on #IEEETTM in the press [some of the given links don't work any longer, probably to server shifts, website changes or else]:

IEEE Spectrum
- Technology Review (via Heise; Germany)
- Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten (Germany)
- Computer-Oiger (AKA Heiko Weckbrodt; Germany)
- BINUS University
- IEEE Spectrum (USA)
- Uni UAE (United Arab Emirates)
- Neustar.Insights (USA)
- EE Times (Christoph Hammerschmidt; Germany)
- News Nepal (Nepal)
- Produktion (Germany)


theodora said...

nice and educative post.....www.unn.edu.ng

Ralf Lippold said...

Thanks a lot Theodora!